A rap song, an informational presentation and a henna tattoo stand were a few of the features showcased at the Temple Muslim Student Association’s first annual Culture Day last Monday night. Dozens were in attendance for its premiere as a part of Islamic Awareness Week, the first in a series of programs scheduled.
Mitten Hall Owl Cove was buzzing with excitement as members prepared for the evening. Mubeen Husain, the Islamic education chair, said the event was one of significance for their organization.
“It’s important to put the Temple community and the Muslim community together,” she said. “We want people to know we’re still here.”
MSA was established more than 20 years ago in hopes of broadening cultural awareness for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Serving his second term as president, senior Shahid Mohiuddin said he sees an optimistic future for MSA. Committed to the cause of improving the Muslim community within Temple and North Philadelphia, Mohiuddin said he strives to erase images about Islamic religion.
“We’re not all hyper and radical as people think. Breaking down misconceptions about Muslims is our main goal,” Mohiuddin said.
According to Mohiuddin, the program was to stimulate thought and encompass understanding toward Islamic and Muslim culture.
Changing from a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans to a traditional outfit, Mohiuddin, a biology major, began the evening with a visual presentation of different mosques around the world. As music played, two female Muslim students tattooed intricate details onto the wrists and hands of guests. The event’s main objective was not only to entertain, but to educate as well. One of the important issues addressed by Mohiuddin was presenting the facts about the Islamic religion and customs.
“We want people to know we’re not just terrorists,” he said during the introduction of the program. “People have this image that we get together and go crazy. This is to raise awareness.”
Soumya Yerramilli, 18, said the solution is through education. “If people understood the roots of Islam then there wouldn’t be that current fear when it comes to Muslims,” she said.
Several guests said their knowledge does not go beyond what is portrayed in the media. Farah Destin, 19, admitted her lack of knowledge about the religion. “I don’t really know much except what I hear through friends,” she said.
Despite dealing with the obvious issues of negative media portrayal in recent months, MSA shed a positive light during a brief, humorous skit in which they highlighted a ritual of prayer before sunrise. According to Muslim philosophy, “If you don’t untie the knots, you will be tired and groggy for the rest of the day.”
The event even attracted outside organizations from the surrounding area. Members of the Qaid Ameer Abul-Mayeed Staten Hajj Foundation, a Philadelphia-based Muslim organization, were there. “We always participate in Islamic affairs in the community,” said Intisar Shah, the executive director of QAAMS.
The foundation was created as a haven for Muslim youth. The foundation encourages the practice of abstinence and spiritual development. It also organizes social, recreational, educational and spiritual purposes for Philadelphia youth. Once a year the foundation endorses a trip to Mecca, a journey that Muslims embark on at least once in their lifetime. The QAAMS Hajj Foundation and the Muslim Student Association have been collaborative organizations for a period of time.
At the end of the evening the response from the crowd was positive.
“It was lovely and very inspiring. It was very informative and entertaining,” Shah said.
Ahad Alzaman, public relations chair, said he was happy at the outcome.
“We definitely got the word out,” he said.
The Temple Arab Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine co-sponsored the event. Other MSA programs scheduled for this week are lectures titled ‘War on Terrorism’ and ‘Why They Hate Us’ and a workshop on spirituality.
Dafney Tales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.